Permafrost may not be the ticking “carbon bomb” scientists once thought

Grist

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The ‘carbon bomb’ stored in the thawing Arctic permafrost may be released in a slow leak as global warming takes hold, rather than an eruption, according to new research.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found previous predictions of a catastrophic release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere as permafrost thaws may have been overstated.

But the impact on the climate of future permafrost emissions remained significant. More than 1 trillion tonnes of carbon are stored in the soils beneath the Arctic tundra, double humanity’s emissions since the industrial revolution.

“The data from our team’s syntheses don’t support the permafrost carbon bomb view,” said A. David McGuire, a senior scientist at the USGS, which conducted a review of the current science on permafrost thawing.

“What our syntheses do…

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Permafrost may not be the ticking “carbon bomb” scientists once thought